Want To Lose Weight? Don't Focus On Exercise

I have that friend, and you probably do too. We watch them slog through miserable aerobics classes or glide halfheartedly on the elliptical machine while they consistently struggle with weight loss.

You can't out-exercise a bad diet.

I’m pretty honest with my friends, and this is what I tell them: If you want to lose weight, stop focusing on exercise. Now, I’m not telling you not to exercise. I’m the most pro-exercise person on the planet, but for weight-loss success you need to shift your focus.

Here are the three things you need to do if you want to reach your ideal weight and stay there:

1. Realize losing weight is all about your diet.

Make clear decisions about how you eat, because when you’re overloaded with diet information, you become overwhelmed. You know what I’m talking about. You vow to become lean and toned, get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night, control stress levels and ditch sugar. Everything goes according to plan for, oh, about two hours. Then you crash and burn, settle for an Orange is the New Black binge and maybe a pint of butter pecan and promise yourself you’ll get back on track tomorrow.

That hasn’t worked out so well, right? Studies show you can't out-exercise a bad diet. Diet is the most critical tool for initial weight loss, whereas exercise is key for long-term weight management and overall health.

2. Clean up your diet ... one step at a time.

Let’s clean up your diet first: Go low-sugar impact, cut the processed crap, address food intolerances — and then focus on exercise.

Rather than go cold turkey, I want you to gradually transition off high-sugar impact foods. A few simple ways to do that include becoming aware where sneaky sugars lie (read those labels!), eliminating obvious high-sugar impact culprits like soda and chips, and doing an elimination diet if you suspect gluten, dairy, and other food intolerances might be holding your weight hostage.

3. After you've established a healthy diet, add consistent exercise to your schedule.

You do eventually need to start exercising. I don’t want you to become thin on the outside, fat on the inside, or "TOFI." This term is used to describe people who stay lean but maintain little muscle mass. Even if you think you look good, a lack of exercise puts you at a higher risk for disease.

Exercise will keep you lean, toned and muscular. It is critical for long-term weight management because it helps burn up your fat-storing enzymes, and it boosts your metabolism so you burn more calories from fat throughout the day.

Even then, don’t think you can do a killer workout, then nose-dive into an extra-large fro-yo and watch your fat melt away. Not. Going. To. Happen. A healthy diet, consistent exercise and adequate sleep are the three factors that lead to lasting weight loss.

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